What’s an HR Succession Plan and Why do You Need One? 


What would you do if your company's CEO left without warning? Or maybe it wasn't the CEO. Perhaps it was a seasoned engineer who carried a wealth of institutional knowledge in their head or a key marketing vice president who built valuable relationships inside and outside the organization.

Unfortunately, organizations may soon face more instances of valued employees leaving. As the pandemic eases, experts predict increased turnover as employees feel more confident in making job changes. Companies will also lose employees to retirements. Although companies had anticipated a wave of Baby Boomer retirements, the pace of retirements accelerated this last year. 

Surprisingly, many companies don't have succession plans — even for their most senior leaders. The lack of preparation means companies may take longer to find a replacement, creating a greater financial burden and negatively impacting productivity and engagement. 

Employee retention is a never-ending challenge, but progressive organizations can keep their superstar talent longer if they have and implement a succession plan.


Building a succession plan

A succession plan identifies and develops employees to help them advance in the organization. As an organization grows, it's more cost-effective to develop current employees for critical positions rather than hire new people. Additionally, the current employees know the people, processes, and technology used and understand the culture, which may help them get up to speed faster on the job. 

Succession planning is a strategic process to keep talent in the organizational pipeline. It isn't an immediate fix. According to SHRM, it typically involves 12 - 36 months of preparation and must be developed and implemented with crucial steps: 

·   Identify future critical roles. Some of these roles are obvious, such as the senior department leaders. But others may require a closer look--for example, the manufacturing employee who knows all of the workarounds used for production or the IT supervisor who will be instrumental in the company's digital transformation. If these employees were to leave, the company would have difficulty functioning.

·   Construct ideal position-holder profiles. Looking at these future roles, consider what characteristics and experience you would want the occupant to have. It's critical to base this on the position's needs and not on the person currently in the job. If the current job holder has an MBA or has 25 years of experience, but the position requires an associate degree and ten years of experience, note that. 

·   Assess current staff skills and development opportunities. You don't have to have someone immediately ready to step into a critical position. In fact, it may be best that you have someone who isn't chomping at the bit before you need them because they may grow frustrated and look for other jobs (but that's another opportunity to address with career development). However, you should be able to identify employees who have the potential to develop into the position. Determine their interests and assess what they need to learn and experience to be prepared.

·   Identify potential talent pools for various competencies and planned vacancies. Beyond individuals, look for talent pools. Customer service representatives might have skills that can be developed and transferred to marketing or sales positions. 

·   Create development plans and capitalize on opportunities. With the potential end goal in mind, purposefully develop learning opportunities and experiences that help prepare employees. Don't overlook projects that might be with other teams, departments, or even outside the company. Even if the employee does not ultimately take on that particular role, the investment in their development can pay off with retention and engagement and opportunities to advance in other areas of the organization. 


Simplify succession planning with an HCM

As necessary as succession planning is, it can be time-consuming and burdensome to do manually. Keeping track of org charts and headcounts in spreadsheets like Excel creates confusion. HCMs with position-based architecture, like SyncHR, make it easier. 

SyncHR allows you to see who is in which positions now and run what-if scenarios to determine how a key departure would impact the company.

Position-based architecture also lets you develop current and future role responsibilities, requirements, credentials, and competencies that stay in the system even if the person in that role leaves.

An HCM allows leaders and managers to facilitate in-depth employee performance management, including goal planning and career path development. You and the employee can identify goals and desires, record them and create developmental plans based on personal objectives and business needs. 

Using an HCM also lets you use continuous learning and development programs tailored to the employee's needs and goals. Additionally, by measuring and adapting training programs based on the employee's progress, you can ensure they get what they need most when they need it.

Companies never want to lose good employees, but succession planning acts as insurance against this risk. It's a smart way to sustain your corporate culture, minimize the impact of inevitable employee turnover, and maintain your top (or even hidden) talent longer for maximum lifetime employee value. 

For more information on how to simplify succession planning using an HCM with position-management architecture, let's chat



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Pamela DeLoatch

Pamela DeLoatch

Pamela is a freelance marketing writer who specializes in Human Resources and HR technology. With 16 years of HR and writing experience, combined with a journalism degree and an MBA, Pamela delivers compelling content that engages the audience and effectively conveys the marketing message.

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